Wow, hard to believe this is our last walking day. Although slightly weary each morning the days, sometimes lengthy, have not been particularly strenuous. What was a shock today was that the sun was shining at breakfast, the roads and pavements were dry. This was a first and clothes for the day needed new thought processes. For some, shorts were order of the day.
After the usual hearty breakfast we soon were walking through Kinlochleven in the sun, noticing that in this sheltered town Spring was showing more than anywhere we had experienced so far. The tranquillity was broken by a trigger-happy chain-saw operator usefully demolishing s hillside of rhododendrons but constantly revving the machine across the whole range of its abilities. We ascended through some woods, building up quite a heat, in the still airs. Across the waters of the loch we could the chain saw revving away, and a plume of smoke from the pyre of rhoddies.
The ascent took us into a very distinct, straight, upland glen of the Allt Nathrach, spoiled by a line of wooden power line poles, and hear and there, modern machinery that we found was ploughing a fibre optic cable into the ground, where thankfully, it would not be obtrusive. We reached the bealach at the head of the glen and soon a derelict building (with a “Dangerous Building- do not enter” sign), Tigh na sleubhaich by name. By now the good weather had gone, and we were back to West Highland Way weather, cloud, light drizzle and a cool breeze. A bunch of folk were snacking outside the roofless building, but we ignored the sign and went in for at least shelter from the wind and a bite to eat. We soon headed off, after some of banter with the folks outside, still following an old military road downhill. It passed through some commercial forests felled a few years back and though the land has made good recovery, it is still very obviously felled forest. A glace over our left shoulder to Locahn Lunn Da-Bhra, with some individual scattered Scots pines, looked wonderful, through the mistiness.
We stopped, and our three old guys from Kilsyth passed by, they had food today, indeed as it’s the last day walking they had wine and cake which we saw at a later passing where they were using an upright tree stump as a bar table, their wine and cake on top. They didn’t invite us over!!!!.
A few minor ups and downs later, we saw our fist glimpse of Ben Nevis, the summit well above the clouds, and after crossing a forested bealach our eyes were cast down to Glen Nevis, our last glen on the way. The drizzle came and went as we descended on wide tracks, now through standing forest. We avoided the turn off to the Youth Hostel and kept going before finally dropping down onto the small Glan Nevis tarmac road, and its footpath leading us to the Nevis Bridge roundabout and the finish of the West Highland Way – well one of them – as the Way has two starting points we found it also has two finishing points!
As we arrived a sudden shower of stir rods fell. Everyone except us had dived into the shops for shelter (or to buy some un-needed Scottish souvenir junk). No-one was around to meet us, none of our passing acquaintances had hung around to congratulate us, there was no human being in site. It seemed even Noel, always there to great us at the end of the day, had chickened out due to the weather. In desperation Fran cajoled someone to come and take our photos, in the rain, to record what for us (if not anyone else) was our moment of triumph. We too dived into the shop at which we were entitled to a “Certificate of Completion” of the West Highland Way. A good bit of PR for the shop and, as they say in Yorkshire “better than n’owt”.
Whilst heading for the Alexander Hotel Noel emerged. He and Fran, according to the original trip plan, had a room booked and Bill had his vehicle parked for a quick return to Aberdeen. We changed “el-fresco” in the hotel car park into some more respectable (and dry) clothes and headed off into town for a celebratory refreshment. It was here we found a second “Finish Point”, a “new one” from 2010, at least an extra mile from the original one at the roundabout. It had a bench to sit on, a rock engraved with the route, and a bronze, friendly, bald old man, looking a bit ancient in age and by (bronze) clothing, sat on the bench that allowed you to sit alongside him.!! It wasn’t that welcoming in the drizzle. We moved onto find many of the cafes appeared to “shut for lunch”, not a good PR exercise, but perhaps the way it works in Fort William. We did find one open and had our celebration with tea nd cakes.
Todays distance had been 24km, 6 hrs 45 min start to stop (at the second finish point).
As our final act we returned to the hotel, bid our self-congratulations and farewells, Fran and Noel stayed on for the night and Bill drove June and James back towards Aberdeen in weather and temperatures that gradually improved to rather fine. The West Highland Way was over for us but for some of our acquaintances along the way on a slower schedule, they would still have another day or two. We met no-one doing it in less than our 6 days. When the going gets tough the tough get going!!!